India is synonymous to mangoes, which are primarily grown in Maharashtra. Golden yellow, sweet, succulent and amazingly aromatic, they're fat and cholesterol free. Ambe (आंबे), meaning Mangoes, being seasonal, are harvested only in the summer months. Rich in an array of vitamins and minerals, they're a super food!
Since the fruit is usually bought in multiples of six, most people buy wooden crates (पेट्या), which usually consist of 3 dozen mangoes. Crates of smaller and larger varieties are also available. When buying a crate, most people layer the unripe mangoes at the bottom with more ripe fruits at the top The layers are separated using hay. When purchasing a crate, it is important to remember to check on the fruits every once a while, rearranging them to keep the ripest fruits on top. There are numerous varieties of mangoes, some of which I'll introduce to you. The choice of variety will depend upon the recipe.
Alphonso/Hapus Amba (हापूस आंबा)
This is the most celebrated variety of mangoes. They're sweet, with a firm-yet-soft flesh. The two sub-varieties of this mango differ in terms of their source. The first is the one from Ratnagiri, a coastal town of Maharashtra. The second is from Devgad, which is situated on the plains. The difference of soil, altitude and climate means that the two varieties taste slightly different.
To buy Hapus Ambe, select fruits that do not have dents, mushy spots, protrusions at the bottom or black marks. If the fruit is still slightly green away from the stem, keep it wrapped in hay or paper. This will ripen it quickly, so do keep an eye on it! Ripe mangoes range from golden yellow to orange-ish at the stem and have slightly wrinkled skins. When you notice that the fruit shows all the above signs, it's time to gobble it up!
I prefer to eat this variety by itself, sliced into a hedgehog.
This variety a stringier and more 'watery' flesh compared to hapus. I prefer making amras (अमरस) using payari than hapus mangoes. Compared to hapus, they taste less dense and have thicker skin.
|An Alphonso mango (L) and a Payari Mango (R)|
This mango has a slightly elongated S-shape than the others. The mango tastes slightly chalky than the others and I prefer to eat the raw fruit with some salt and chili powder.
To buy this variety, select fruits that don't have dents or mushy spots. This variety almost always has an orange to golden yellow colour from stem to tip.
To pick raw mangoes, pick fruits that are firm and evenly green all-over.